Situation Report
A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

“Furloughs: “A new day for federal service!” Cartwright loses his security clearance; Drones moved in Djibouti; Is Bill Caldwell in trouble?; Carter to announce Navy Yard panel; Syria solution came from an all-night bender (JK!); and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold As the Pentagon braces for the possibility of a shutdown, a defense official told CNN’s Barbara Starr: "We’re incensed at the prospect of a government shutdown. We’ve just gotten over civilian furloughs, are posturing for potential military action in Syria, have our guard up elsewhere, and are dealing with the continuing effects ...

By , a former national security reporter for Foreign Policy.

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

As the Pentagon braces for the possibility of a shutdown, a defense official told CNN’s Barbara Starr: "We’re incensed at the prospect of a government shutdown. We’ve just gotten over civilian furloughs, are posturing for potential military action in Syria, have our guard up elsewhere, and are dealing with the continuing effects of sequestration. Making matters worse, think about Afghanistan and troops who might not be paid on time–and their families. It’s totally irresponsible."

And, directly from the Salt in the Wound Department – At OPM, furlough planning means it’s "a new day for federal service!" Yesterday the government’s Office of Personnel Management issued guidance on furloughs and a possible government shutdown called, simply enough, "Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs." It’s the Plan B plan in case the government is shut down, if Congress fails to cut a deal, starting Oct. 1. The only thing is, it looks like someone forgot to redesign the little cover sheet for the top of the new guidance. The cover sheet, from "December 2011," says, cheerfully at the bottom in old-style cursive: "A New Day for Federal Service." It was taken, by some at least, as a stick in the eye about the same time there is a real threat of more furloughs. Is this the new normal? 

And this just in: Deputy Secretary Ash Carter will today at 12:30 at the Pentagon announce the names of the individuals who will serve on the panels the Defense Department is convening to look at issues surrounding the Navy Yard shooting last week.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at and we’ll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something — to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Hoss Cartwright, Obama’s "favorite general," has lost his security clearance, making serving on a QDR panel a challenge. The Defense Department has stripped Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright of his security clearance, depriving the man once known as "Obama’s favorite general" access to classified data as the investigation into leaks of national security secrets continues. Multiple current and former administration sources told FP that Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lost his clearance earlier this year. It was an indicator that that government officials might, in some way, consider his ongoing access to secrets a national security risk while he was under investigation by the Department of Justice for possibly leaking sensitive information about the Stuxnet computer virus. And, it presents challenges for a man who has been working to shore up his image since retiring in 2011. It was also a further indignity for Cartwright, who turned 64 this week, and who was once an Obama administration darling. Cartwright enjoyed privileged access "across the river" at the White House when he was the number two senior officer on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon from 2007 to 2011. He had adopted contrarian views on issues like the troop surge in Afghanistan, which alienated him from senior brass at the Pentagon but in many ways helped catapult his reputation within the White House. He quickly fell from grace, however, after being linked to leaks about a highly classified cyber-weapon created by the U.S. and Israelis called Stuxnet.

That Cartwright’s security clearance has been revoked may come as little surprise for a high-profile investigation into leaks surrounding a highly classified program… But Cartwright serves on at least one panel that requires a security clearance. Cartwright is a member of the National Defense Panel, an independent board reviewing the Pentagon’s upcoming grand strategy report, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. But Cartwright was unable to attend the panel’s first Aug. 20 meeting, at the Pentagon, raising questions about the status of his security clearance. Asked about the matter, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said he would not comment on Cartwright’s security clearance status. Neither Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who appointed Cartwright, or the Pentagon’s Press Secretary, George Little, would comment. And attempts to get a response from Cartwright or his reps were unanswered. Read the rest of our story here.

You won’t find this story in the Early Bird today: Is Bill Caldwell in trouble for obstructing whistleblowers over issues at a medical facility in Afghanistan? Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: "The top U.S. general responsible for training the Afghan military and his deputy tried to impede their staff from contacting investigators about patient abuse at the largest military hospital in the war-torn country, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general. The two generals sought in 2011 to restrict contact with a team of investigators probing allegations of corruption and substandard patient care — including the starving of Afghan military patients and filthy conditions — at Dawood National Military Hospital, according to an inspector general’s report obtained by Bloomberg News. Army Secretary John McHugh should ‘take appropriate action against’ Lieutenant General William Caldwell, who remains on active duty and his deputy, Army Major General Gary Patton, who now heads the Pentagon’s sexual-assault prevention office, the inspector general said in the Aug. 13 report. The generals "attempted to limit" contacts and "required all communications" with the inspector general "be approved prior to release," the report found. They acted after the training command’s own inspector general submitted a seven-page assessment in February 2011 documenting substandard patient care to the investigating team without the general’s knowledge.

Is Dawood hospital a potential recruiting poster for the Taliban? Grassley, to Hagel, in a letter obtained by Bloomberg, on Sept. 5: "The reports… clearly indicate that generals Caldwell and Patton engaged in a pattern of misconduct designed to effectively ‘restrict’ five officers and a civilian deputy to the Commander from reporting fraud and theft to the Defense Department’s (DoD) Inspector General’s Office. The whistleblowers had become ‘increasingly concerned about the level of corruption and felt it was beyond their ability to evaluate and fix.’ They wanted to ask the DoD OIG ‘to help root out the corruption.’ Generals Caldwell and Patton attempted unsuccessfully to keep that from happening."

And, Grassley wrote: "If the goal of U.S. policy in Afghanistan is to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people, then taking care of wounded soldiers is a good place to start. By allowing wounded soldiers to rot and die in this hospital, we and the Afghan government are providing the Taliban with a golden recruiting opportunity. Dawood has the makings of an effective Taliban recruiting poster."

What does Iran really want? FP’s Yochi Dreazen: "We know what Iran would want out of any agreement: freedom from the Western sanctions that have decimated its economy and international recognition that it is entitled to have a civilian nuclear program. More specifically, Iran would want the United States and its allies to lift the measures that have led foreign countries to significantly cut their purchases of Iranian oil, reducing Iran’s monthly oil revenues by nearly 60 percent over the past two years, and that have forced overseas financial institutions to freeze their ties with Iran’s central bank, driving the value of its currency down to historic lows and effectively cutting Iran off from the global financial system. We also know the broad terms of what the United States would want: clear evidence that Iran had dropped its pursuit of nuclear weapons and would no longer have the equipment or radioactive material necessary to start it up again." More here.

Where is the Middle East’s "bad boy," Quassim Soleimani? From an informed American diplomat, to Situation Report: "The Persians invented chess. I would term this the "Troy Gambit."  Curious to see if we and allies take the proffered pawn, and we wake up one morning next year to news that the Iranians have a nuclear weapon. And how will the Israelis react to this?  Would love to believe this is all for real, driven by sanctions and economics, but experience suggests that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.  I think this is misdirection (read option, except with agile, fleet of foot quarterbacks, unlike the Deadskins), because Iran has too much on its plate, and needs to calm down some of the fronts it is operating on — Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. In the meantime, where is the bad boy of the Middle East, Quassim Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force?  The man responsible for hundreds of American deaths in Iraq, and coordinating the Iranian intervention in Syria, when he is not planning the killings of Israelis in Bulgaria or Cyprus?"

NYT’s David Sanger, on Obama and "evolving forpol." Read it here.

The U.S. military is having to move its fleet of drones in Djibouti because of the risk that they would collide with commercial aircraft. The WaPo’s Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller: "The Pentagon has temporarily moved the unmanned aircraft from the U.S. base in Djibouti’s capital to a makeshift airstrip in a more remote part of the country. U.S. military officials said the disruption has not affected their overall ability to launch drone strikes in the region, but they declined to say whether it has forced them to curtail the frequency of drone missions or hindered their surveillance of al-Shabab camps and fighters. The Djiboutian government’s growing unease over drone flights casts doubt on its commitment to host the aircraft over the long term. It is unclear whether the temporary drone base can be transformed into a permanent home or whether the U.S. military will have to hunt for another site in the region, according to previously undisclosed correspondence between the Defense Department and Congress."

Why is this a problem? "That uncertainty raises fresh questions about the Pentagon’s plan to invest more than $1 billion to upgrade Camp Lemonnier into a major regional base, supporting operations throughout Africa, as well as in parts of the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean. Those plans include a $228 million compound to house up to 700 personnel from the highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command. More broadly, however, the concerns about drone safety present a strategic challenge for the Pentagon as it begins to shift more of the robot planes to new frontiers, where they must share congest airspace with commercial aircraft." The WaPo’s Page Oner, here. WaPo’s map of the "drone network," here.

Does the Nairobi terrorist attack mean a return not only of the Shabab – but al-Qaida? U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman: "Al-Shabab’s attack on an upscale mall in Kenya could be a bitter taste of future violence from a surging international coalition of al-Qaida fighters, says a former top U.S. official for Africa. This latest strike, which left more than 60 dead and hundreds wounded, could further destabilize the region, says former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. It could allow for a resurgence of al-Qaida in East Africa, he says, and for Somalia to descend into an ‘international arms bazaar.’ It requires a strong response from international supporters of the fledgling government in Somalia, which is still trying to rise above its ‘Black Hawk Down’ history. Veteran Foreign Service Officer Johnnie Carson (and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs), to Shinkman: "This is not something the new Somali government will be able to do on its own… "We must do everything we can to continue the progress into the future. Much remains to be done there," says Carson, who retired earlier this year. "One should not look at the incidents over the weekend – as terrible and horrific as they are – as indicators of backsliding." More here.

A Reuters photographer’s memory of Nairobi, here.

JIEDDO’s Tyler Hague is going to be an astronaut. NASA selected its 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class, and Tyler Hague, currently with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, may soon see stars. From NASA: "Tyler N. Hague (Nick), 37, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force, calls Hoxie, Kan., home. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards, Calif. Hague currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization." More here.

Who’s where when. Today, Gen. Keith Alexander, Cyber Command Commander and National Security Agency director, delivers remarks at the 4th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit at 8 a.m. EDT, at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.; And CNO Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert talks about the status of the Navy around the world, the ways the Navy is rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific and some of the challenges facing the Navy at 8:30 p.m. EDT, at the Marine Memorial Club in San Francisco.

John Kerry expected to sign Arms Trade Treaty today. The WaPo’s Karen DeYoung: "The United States will sign the international Arms Trade Treaty on Wednesday, agreeing to the accord to stem the flow of weapons to human rights violators and conflict zones, over the strong opposition of the U.S. gun lobby, according to a senior State Department official." More here.

Amnesty International USA today announces that Steven Hawkins is taking over as the head of Amnesty International USA. The organization is welcoming its new leader, Hawkins, who will begin the day in New York just as John Kerry is expected to sign the new Arms Trade Treaty, which Amnesty has worked for for two decades. Hawkins: "The human rights movement has no borders, and there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Though our accomplishments are many, our challenge today is to use the extraordinary power of our digital world to open the eyes of young people who are concerned about rights here to fight alongside those who are waging similar struggles around the world. We must harness the passion and commitment we see at home and connect these voices to millions more demanding respect for the same rights in distant places."

The Pentagon could cut 50k employees, 60k troops, and save $50 billion. As a follow up to our squib yesterday about Stimson’s report detailing 27 ways to cut $50 billion, the AP’s Pauline Jelinek: The Defense Department could shed 60,000 more troops than planned and 50,000 civilian employees without hurting U.S. fighting power, four former members of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a new report on military strategy and spending… The biggest proposed saving – $22.4 billion in the fiscal year starting October next year- would come in cutting overhead such as civilian employees, headquarters staff and contractors as well as reforming pension and health programs, the report said. Barry Blechman: "The Defense Department is not a jobs program." That story, here.

Turns out, the solution to the Syria problem came as a result of an all-night bender with Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. JK! From the Duffel Blog: "According to sources, Hagel texted Kerry stating that he felt overworked and needed a ‘wingman to blow off steam and bitch about my boss.’ Fellow veteran Kerry agreed, stating that he had some ‘righteous weed and a few pills left over from Theresa’s accident. ‘By night’s end, a peaceful political solution to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own people was devised after hours of drinking, marijuana use and free flowing conversation. ‘Yeah those two bums were down here,’ said Mike O’Leary, bartender at The Velvet Lounge, a D.C. dive bar. ‘They came in looking like they had been at it for a bit. Reeked of reefer and whiskey. But they were paying with cash and kept downing the beers on a Sunday night, so what do I care?’… Pentagon officials are working feverishly to locate Hagel, who did not report to formation before the Senate Armed Services Committee on time. His aide made an unverified claim that he was at a dental appointment and totally not passed out in his quarters." Read the whole bit, here.


Gordon Lubold is a former national security reporter for Foreign Policy. Twitter: @glubold

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